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University to Recruit Native Students to STEM Programs

The Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences has established an initiative to recruit more American Indian students into medicine and science fields.

The university recently launched its Tulsa-based Office for the Advancement of American in Medicine and Science, which will partner with tribes to create medical training programs for Native American students while also addressing the health care needs of those tribes. The office aims to partner with all federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma to increase awareness and interest in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM careers through programs and summer camps for youth.

"Our initiative will increase the number of American Indians practicing medicine and working in the science fields through mentoring and targeted programs," said Kent Smith, interim associate dean for the new office in a press release. "The efforts will help our Native American students in Oklahoma excel in these fields by offering hands-on experiences that combine Native culture and science." 

According to the National Science Foundation, American Indian students are underrepresented in STEM courses, majors, and careers. Federal data show only 67 percent of Native American students graduate in four years, compared to 86 percent of white students, and 88 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander students. Native students perform lower than their white and Asian peers on kindergarten, fourth grade, and eighth grade science and math exams. In 2011, minority students, including American Indians and Alaska Natives, made up only 12 percent of students enrolled in graduate science and engineering programs, and 10 percent of the workforce in science and engineering jobs. 

Nationwide, STEM programs are often lacking in rural schools due to small budgets and teacher shortages. Graduates of rural schools are also less likely than their non-rural peers to have completed a high school science sequence of classes, including chemistry, biology, and physics. 

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